Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Student government hopes to improve internal diversity after inaugural survey

Survey shows growth in racial diversity but lack of participation from LGBT, international students

 Student government hopes to improve internal diversity after inaugural survey

AU Student Government is taking action to increase diversity and inclusion within the organization after conducting its first internal diversity survey, the results of which were published in May.

Rafael Cestero, SG’s director of diversity, equity and inclusion, conducted a digital survey distributed to members of the organization to acquire data on the diverse identities within it.

The survey revealed that of the 97 members who answered the survey, 51 percent of SG members are people of color or mixed race, compared to the 34 percent of the AU student body who identify as people of color. The survey also found that the majority of SG members are in the School of Public Affairs.

However, when it comes to international students, SG does not reflect the wider demographics of AU. International students make up 11 percent of AU students, but only 2.25 percent of SG.

Although the survey revealed increased racial diversity within SG -- three of the four executive board members this year are women of color -- Cestero said the survey still warrants “critical internal review,” as it revealed certain large communities, such as the international and LGBT communities, that are not participating in SG.

“It made us aware of this lack and now it is propelling us to make targeted efforts on how we get more people to participate in AUSG from these communities, and also how we make AUSG more welcoming to these communities,” he said.

SG Vice President Leela Najafi said the survey is meant to mark the progress SG hopes to make in the future.

“My hope is that students see these results and feel prompted to take action and run for student government or join one of our many amazing programming teams,” Najafi said.

Najafi said there are multiple factors involved in why SG might not attract students with diverse identities, including its history as a predominantly white institution and the major time commitment required to be a member.

Danya Adams, a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences and a senator for the class of 2021, noted the importance of campus outreach in ensuring diversity in the organization.

“When we are recruiting people to apply for positions, it is important to not only send emails but to reach out to many clubs and organizations,” she said. “Although within AUSG, it is a very inclusive community, it is important to send this message to the community so people of different backgrounds can feel more comfortable joining.”

While the survey stated that the specific plans and initiatives for increasing diversity will be published in “subsequent communications,” SG members hope that the publication of the survey will allow students to feel more empowered to participate in AUSG and better represent the AU community.

“AUSG is supposed to help empower everyone in our community,” Adams said. “That means that minority groups need proper representation.”

asheffey@theeagleonline.com


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